Territorial conflicts of China and India: their nature, driving forces and mechanisms
Material posted: Publication date: 16-11-2019
The twentieth century was marked by the emergence of new States on the world stage, which in accordance with international law, sovereignty and territories. The sovereignty of these States was found, declaring independence and claiming the Constitution. However, securing the right of possession of certain territories caused disputes with neighbouring States, since new States had to sign agreements with neighbors, who also claimed the area. Thus was born the territorial disputes between the States, many of which have not been settled so far.

Thus, territorial conflicts have become one of the important problems in the international arena. This phenomenon in world politics is not something new, as the war for the new territories was conducted almost from the beginning of human existence, but in the XX century this problem has become so open. It should be noted that most of the modern territorial disputes are regional in nature, and, as noted earlier, originate in the last century.

One of the regions, which is especially developed this problem, is Asia. A distinctive feature of this region is that of the disputed territory stretches across the region from the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, to the problems of the delimitation of territorial waters and continental shelf in the Bering sea between Russia and the United States. Among the most significant States in Asia can be identified India, China (hereinafter PRC), and Russia (Russian Federation). Undoubtedly, these States are the actors that influence on the region and the world as a whole.

High geopolitical potential of China and India is following:

  1. The area of the state. India and China are 7 and 3 places in the global list [1].
  2. Population. India and China occupy a leading position in this factor (2 and 1 respectively) among all States in the world [2].
  3. Economic indicators, which include GDP, exports and imports. According to the indicators of India and China are one of the leading positions, for example, according to the list of countries by GDP PPP India and China are on the 3 and 1 positions, respectively [3].
  4. The costs of military spending. According to global list India and China are 2 and 4 respectively [4].
  5. The existence of nuclear weapons.
  6. Membership in international and regional organizations. India and China are member States of the BRICS, the UN, the Forum "Asia – Europe", SCO etc.

On the basis of these determinants of the geopolitical potential, it can be concluded that India and China are among the key States in Asia that, in turn, seek to protect their territory and possibly to gain new, and expand its influence in all large areas. The effects are primarily to their less developed neighbors. In this case, countries have a choice to make: position a large state in the region to take? Such States include Bhutan and Nepal.

In addition, in pursuit of national interests by defending their territories and the accession of new States faced territorial disputes. In our case, a striking example is the territorial conflict between India and China, which originates in the early XX century. So the source of this conflict is the southern part of Tibet, which the British turned to their Indian possessions after the defeat of Qing China by the Western colonizers in the Opium wars of the nineteenth century. To determine the territories was conducted by "line McMahon", which was enshrined in Silskih agreements (1913-1914) between British India and the Republic of China and Tibet. However, the Chinese did not recognize these agreements, leaving the question open, and return to him after the proclamation of independence by India in 1947 and the founding of the people's Republic in 1949. Diplomatic relations between India and China was established in 1950, however, between the countries along the line their boundaries remained territorial disputes, which stretched from the time when India was a British colony. So, in 1962, during the Chinese-Indian border war, Chinese troops occupied two areas:

  1. Undisci the state of Arunachal Pradesh in the Eastern sector of the common border;
  2. Aksaichin part of the territory of Kashmir in the North-Eastern part of the Western sector of the common border.

As a result of the border the armed forces of China, under US pressure, and the UN in terms of neutrality of the Soviet Union left the state of Arunachal Pradesh, which returned the part of India that is the subject of territorial claims by China.

In turn, another disputed territory, Aksaichin, remained under the control of China, which later paved the strategic highway to Pakistan through the territory of the region. This balance of power does not suit India, therefore, this region is the subject of territorial claims from the side of India. However, territorial disputes between India and China is not over. In 1967, and was held following the Sino-Indian border conflict. The subject of this incident was a state in the northeast India, Sikkim. The result is two separate fights, Sikkim remained under the protectorate of India, and armed clashes ended in a tactical victory for India.

Thus, it is possible to identify three cross-border areas, which are the subject of territorial disputes between India and China: Aksaichin, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim. However, this did not impede the expansion of diplomatic and economic ties. So in 2008, China became the largest trading partner of India. In addition, these States are members of international and regional organizations, such as BRICS and the SCO. In the light of developing relations between India and China, the border conflict was partly resolved: Beijing recognized Sikkim as Indian territory, and new Delhi has referred to Tibet as "Tibet Autonomous region"[5]. But at the same time, India does not recognize the identity of the district Aksaichin China, and China, in turn, requires that India gave him the state of Arunachal Pradesh.

But territorial disputes between India and China is not limited to these regions. In addition to the regions Aksaichin and Arunachal Pradesh, the disputed points are Bhutan and Nepal, which are mentioned earlier, as they directly border with India and China, which, in turn, compete among themselves for influence on the data of the neighboring States.

So the struggle for influence in these regions can develop into more serious stages, including the deployment of armed forces to the disputed areas. An example can be a situation which happened in 2017 in the conflict surrounding the plateau Dalam6, which is located on the border of Bhutan, the Indian state of Sikkim and the Tibet Autonomous region part of China. The reason for this conflict was the attempt of construction by Chinese engineers of the road through the disputed plateau.

After clashes between the military forces of India and China, Chinese engineers have receded, however, this area is attractive for China, as the construction of roads and improvement of infrastructure increases transport connectivity with the Chinese side of the border and provides the people's liberation army of China additional features. China will be able to transfer troops, supplies and weapons to the border is critical for India district – Siliguri corridor, also known as "Chicken neck" and "Neck of the chicken".

The fact that this corridor links mainland India with the northeastern States. In the case of a full-scale conflict, Chinese troops will be able in just a few hours to cut off the region from India. Thus, we can conclude that the territorial conflict between India and China is difficult to resolve, but we cannot exclude its settlement in the future.

We can observe how these powers year after year, increase its geopolitical potential, increasing military power, as well as improving their economic performance. The next two powers in the same region would certainly give rise to various disputes in the struggle for the spread of influence in other areas, but at the same time, the relationship between these States is included diplomacy. The leaders of India and China are making efforts to improve relations between States, and it is possible to make a prediction that the credibility of Narendra modi in India and XI Jinping in China will allow if not to solve territorial conflicts, to start a dialogue on this issue.


  1. ‘Demographic Yearbook – Table 3: Population by sex, rate of population increase, surface area and density’. United Nations Statistics Division. 2012.
  2. Worldometers. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision // access Mode: www.worldometers.info (date accessed: 01.11.2019)
  3. Gross domestic product in 2018, PPP. World Bank, 19.09.2019 // access Mode: https://databank.worldbank.org/data/download/GDP_PPP.pdf (date accessed: 01.11.2019).
  4. N. Tian, A. Gillam, A. Kuimova, P. D. Wezeman, S. T. Wezeman. Trends in world military expenditure. Sipri // access Mode: https://www.sipri.org/sites/default/files/2019 - 04/fs_1904_milex_2018.pdf (date accessed: 01.11.2019).
  5. Lunev S. I., the value of the formats RIC, BRIC and the BRICS for India // China in world and regional politics. History and the present. 2012. No. 17. P. 126.
  6. The Chinese name of dunlan.

Maksimov N. With.

Tags: assessment , China , A.Snesariev's competition , India